Why Does My Dog Chase Cars All of a Sudden?

dog chasing a car out into the street

If your dog is suddenly chasing cars, it usually means their prey drive is kicking in. Nearly all dogs have a prey drive, but it isn’t always “activated”. If it seems like this behavior happened suddenly, they may be trying to protect something (or someone) on their territory.

Dogs are known to chase cars down the street. This behavior is completely normal (although it needs to be stopped). Most dogs who enjoy chasing cars do so from a young age. But what if your dog has never developed the bad habit of chasing cars, then begins chasing them suddenly?

If this is abnormal behavior from your dog, you’re probably wondering what’s going on. There are a few reasons dogs will suddenly have this change of behavior. Below, we will go over each one. Then we will go over how to put an end to this behavior.

4 Reasons Dogs Suddenly Chase Cars

Mistaken as Prey

Your dog is an animal with fierce predatory instincts. They naturally chase down prey that could feed the pack. The motors of some vehicles emit a sound like a large growl, resembling a potential food source for your pup.

Dogs can’t always tell the difference between a passing car and large prey. Species of dogs that continue to live in the wild rely on large animals as food sources.

In fact, African Wild Dogs are known to chase down warthogs and antelopes — animals far larger than them — to feed the pack. When they see a car driving by, they associate it with an animal that could provide nutrition for the entire pack for a day or two.

Protecting Territory

It is no secret that dogs are territorial. They tend to bark whenever someone knocks at the door. Many dogs watch out the window, guarding against potential home invaders or others with perceived harmful intentions. They see your home as their cave and you as alpha, a master under their care and protection.

If the car chasing started out of nowhere, it could be that you have a younger pup that has matured and developed territorial instincts. Even the mailman and paperboy can be an unwanted presence on their turf.

Because dogs claim and expand territory by marking with urine, they cannot recognize an approaching car without their scent.

Your pup associates the car with another predator encroaching on their territory. Cars become an enemy attempting to invade the cave they have established as home.

Loneliness and Boredom

Chasing cars may be the byproduct of a lonely pup. Dogs are pack animals, so they prefer social interactions. Even when you are not home, your pup longs for your presence for a sense of stability and purpose. Toys provide some solace, but this isn’t enough.

Bored dogs find trouble. This is a universal rule. A disinterested pup chews on walls and bookcases or digs through the trash. Cars rolling down the street provide some excitement in their day-to-day life.

They imagine some prey or an intruder has appeared for them to take down. Your dog may simply be looking for some drama to keep their minds occupied.

Has your dog been home alone lately? Do they lie around most of the day when they aren’t out chasing cars? If so, you might have a bored dog on your hands.

Bad Habits

Your dog may have incorporated car-chasing into their daily routine. If a particular vehicle drives by regularly or on a route, such as a mailman or delivery driver, your pup may lie in wait for the car to drive by. Dogs are intelligent animals that feed on routine, so chasing a particular vehicle may become part of their day-to-day schedule.

Stopping Your Dog from Chasing Cars

Chasing cars is not a safe habit. Dogs can easily get hit by a car, especially in less-than-optimal lighting. They may chase too far down the street, leaving them susceptible to dog napping by someone else. Or they may run into another object while focused on the car. Here are a few training tips to help you teach your pup not to chase after cars.

Don’t Chase After Your Dog

This is important. The first thing most owners will do is chase after their dog. If you do this, your dog will think you are joining in and run further and faster. Besides, you put yourself at risk of getting hit by a car.

Don’t Use Treats

Do not lure your dog back with a treat. By the time you can retrieve the treat, they will have already made it to the street.

If they are in a playful mood, they may snatch the treat and make a run for it. A treat is positive reinforcement, so they may believe they have pleased you by running after the car.

Firmly Call For Your Dog

Call your dog by their name very firmly. If you call their name playfully, they will not take you seriously. Dogs pay attention to the tone of voice more than the word itself.

If you use more than one nickname or name for your pup, ensure that you are using the version they recognize immediately.

Train Your Dog to Come

Take your dog to a safe environment and put a long lead on them. Throw a toy for your dog to retrieve, then call them back to you.

If your pup does not respond, tug gently on the lead towards you until they come. Give them a treat and love on them once they reach you.

This will create positive reinforcement in coming to you when called. Remember to use your pup’s name and a short command like “Fido, COME.” Ensure that you give them a treat every time they successfully respond.

Control The Training With a Friend

Ask a friend (someone not living in the home with the dog) jog, bike, or drive their car past your dog. Command your dog to stop or to return when they chase after your friend.

Practice this until your dog does not chase after the friend at all or stops every time you give the command. Ensure that you reward your pup with a treat with every successful response.

Take your dog to places beyond the confines of your home. Ensure that they are on a leash. Enforce healthy boundaries as your dog gets used to other people and dogs. If they learn these boundaries, they will become more disciplined in behavior around the home, especially regarding cars passing on the street.

Plenty of Exercise

Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise. Your dog may have too much energy, so tiring them out may be the answer. Take your dog for a walk or let them socialize with other dogs at the dog park. A tired pup is an obedient pup.

Allow your dog to chase you or someone else in your home. If you have kids, this is a great way to tire them out while allowing your dog the room to satisfy their instinct to chase.

Car Chasing – A Natural But Dangerous Habit

Chasing cars may be an instinct for your dog, but it can quickly become a dangerous habit. Keep your dog safe while instilling discipline to keep them happy and healthy and far away from the street.

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